Praying for Miracles

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 4, 2020 2 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

When I was in college, I wore a T-Shirt that said, “Pray for Juarez” put together by the ministry my parents worked for at the time. This was 10 years ago and Juarez, Mexico was in the middle of a fierce drug cartel war, making it the deadliest city in the world at the time. It was not uncommon to be in Mexico and see a dead body or even a head on a city fountain (yes, that kind of graphic violence). One of my college advisors saw the shirt and said “Did you know that scientific evidence says that when people are sick and pray for healing, there is only about a 50% success rate? Therefore, prayer doesn’t work.” I didn’t answer because I didn’t feel that was the place for the debate, but I brushed it off, knowing this guy knew nothing of prayer and so did his source.

But what’s the deal with this? This is part of the “Why Doesn’t God Heal Amputees?” issue. The claim was, “If Jesus said you can pray for anything in His name and He’ll give it to us, why doesn’t He answer prayers or do miracles?” I want to make this clear. One of the reasons why many people reject the Bible is due to “unanswered prayers.” They have certain expectations, and when the expectations aren’t met, God is to blame. But is the fault with God for not answering a prayer? Is the fault with the person for not asking the right kind of prayer? Is there not enough faith? What’s the deal?

As I’ve studied prayer and tried to practice it, one thing is for certain: prayer is NOT a process. It is not a formula. God is not a “rub the lamp and get three wishes” genie. Prayer is man reaching out to a personal but sovereign God. It is man calling out to God to do what man cannot do. While Scripture does indeed say, “Ask and you shall receive,” there is fine print that goes with it. These aren’t hidden contract fees, but you must interpret what is said in one verse in context with all other verses that talk about the same issue.

One thing must be made clear: God is only responsible for answering the prayers that He said He would answer. Just asking for a few things and attaching “Jesus’ name” to the end of it and saying “Amen” is not true prayer. To ask in the name of Jesus means to ask as though Jesus Himself is asking. That means we need to have the mind of Christ and pray what He wants to be praying. While we do have the authority in Christ to ask whatever we need and God will grant it, that authority only works if we are submitted under the authority of Christ. The Centurion understood this. He knew Jesus didn’t operate under His own power or agenda. He also knew that Jesus could delegate the power and it would be done. If we want free access to the throne of Grace, we have to do thing God’s way and go after the things God wants.

God’s typical answers prayers are yes, no, or later. Not many people like the “no” or “later” answers, but we have to remember that God is a Person and He is sovereign. That means that God has His will and His Kingdom as the chief agenda. God does indeed love us and seek the best for us, but we are not the center of the universe. We are not what it is all about; God is. We have to keep that in mind. God does not need us, nor did He create us to fill a missing hole. He created us to showcase His glory and His character. That includes His love and mercy, and that includes His justice and His wrath.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that God is indifferent about us. I’m not saying that God doesn’t actually care about our desires and our feelings. But I am saying that God’s primary focus is what will give Him glory. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. He brought a 14-year old boy back to life after drowning and being formally declared dead for over an hour. But He let a former Muslim and Christian apologist, Nabeel Qureshi, die of cancer. Why? Prayers were offered for both. Does one being saved and one dying mean that God is arbitrary? No. It means God has reasons for letting somethings happen and intervening in another that we don’t see. The boy, John Smith, who died was brought back is not proud or boasting of the gift God gave him. He’s asking: “Why me?” And that’s the attitude anyone of us should have when God acts on our behalf. “Why me?” We don’t deserve it. The only thing we deserve is the wrath of Almighty God.

When God moves, it’s always for a purpose. Miracles are called rare for a reason. If God answered the prayers of every person who wanted a healing or a restored limb, several things would happen. People would get complacent and reckless. They’d start doing stupid things because after all, who cares about safety if only we believe God will fix the problem? There is natural law and consequences for our actions for a reason. Part of it is to teach us not to do stupid things. Be sexually promiscuous, you will likely catch an STD. Drive drunk, you’ll likely crash and kill someone, if not yourself. Tell a lie to your boss, you may get fired. If God were to fix every problem we created, would we ever learn from them?

Another issue is that the miracle would become commonplace and God’s glory would be minimized. I do believe God does miracles still today (though I am against the notion of “miracle workers” where God always does them through the ministry of a specific person), however those are rare what could be called “mercy drops.” The miracles God does are set up so only He can get the glory. God is capable of working through natural means, and often He will orchestrate the natural to do what He wants done. But He also works in the supernatural where He intervenes upon the natural world to do something it won’t do normally.

People say there’s no objective evidence for miracles. I always ask: “What’s your criteria? What are you expecting?” I rarely, if ever, get a straight answer. I’ve been miraculously healed. I’ve seen food multiply. I’ve even been present (though I was too young to recognize it then) when eyeglasses for a giveaway were multiplied and the last pair of donated glasses went to the last person, each with their precise prescription. But I’ve also seen doors shut, the sick remain sick, the lame remain lame, the damaged brain remain damaged though it was no fault of that person. The fact remains that we live in a sinful, fallen, cursed world and the source of that curse is not God. It’s us.

But what about those who need a miracle? The parent whose child is battling cancer, or a defective heart (as a family in my church is dealing with a second child with the same issue, the first died a few years ago before age 6), or those in a serious financial bind (through no fault of their own)? How should they pray? They should pray knowing two things: God is the God of the universe and He loves His children. He loves to give good gifts. He does hear the pleading and desperate heart. But He is also sovereign, and He has a bigger plan than we can imagine. To the parent with a suffering child, God loves your child even more than you do. He knows what is going on, but He also knows what needs to happen for His glory, or what would happen if He intervenes as we request. Make your plea and keep asking for your plea until the answer comes. David did, but God didn’t answer his prayer to save his son. Yet the Syro-Phonecian woman persisted and God did answer her. Pray until you received closure to your request, but accept the answer when it comes, even if it is a no.

Next week, I’ll examine a crucial Christian doctrine that is sadly ignored or even vilified in many churches today: the doctrine of suffering.

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Unknown said...

Praise God! Excellent teaching. We must always trust God. So .any are willing to judge God, forgetting that you must always judge God faithful. ForHe is always faithful and if something isn't working right, we know it's us not god who needs wisdom.
The bible says get wisdom, get understanding. It doesn't just fall out of a tree. We must search for it, and when we do we will always find it.

MichelleO said...

Thank you for all the work you do brother. It is difficult to imagine the terrible things you saw in Mexico. I remember reading about that. I think you took a difficult topic and presented it exceptionally well. Loved this. God bless